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Julie Chen is an American book artist.


Education and teachingEdit

Born in 1963 in Inglewood, California, Julie Chen completed an undergraduate degree in printmaking at the University of California, Berkeley in 1984. She subsequently became interested in book arts and got a degree in book arts from Mills College in 1989. She began teaching in that program as an adjunct in 1996 and became an associate professor in 2010. She has also taught at California College of the Arts, and she frequently lectures on book arts and gives workshops around the country.


Chen has achieved prominence by creating conceptually sophisticated works that combine traditional techniques, such as letterpress printing and hand bookbinding, with more modern technologies such as photopolymer plates and laser cutting.[1][2] She is known for pushing the structural boundaries of the artist's book with a range of architectural and sculptural approaches.[3] At the same time, her work is praised for its high standard of production and emphasis on the artist's book as a tactile experience.[4][5][6]

In 1987, Chen founded Flying Fish Press to publish limited-edition artist's books. Many are by Chen herself and some are collaborations with the artist Barbara Tetenbaum. The press's elaborate and meticulously produced publications include such elements as game boards (Personal Paradigm), sliding pages (True to Life), windows and trays (Full Circle), and moveable elements (Praxis (Illustrated)).[1] Chen's 1992 book Octopus, with text by poet Elizabeth McDevitt, features a tunnel-like, pop-up element known in the book trade as a peep show.[7] It offers a three-dimensional underwater scene with the tentacles of an octopus extending behind the words, creating a physical analogue of the poem, which speaks of concealment, disguise, and distance.[8] Bon Bon Mots, a meditation on the fleeting sweetness of life, takes the form of a box of chocolates, each of which, on being unwrapped, reveals itself as a tiny book. These show the range of approaches Chen brings to each project: of the five 'chocolate box' books, "Social Graces" is a lotus-fold type, "Life Cycle" is a tetra-tetra flexagon, "Elegy" is a concertina with leaf-shaped pages in a clay cover, "Labyrinth" is ball-in-a-maze type of puzzle in a paper slipcase, and "Either/Or" is a "magic wallet".[9][10] Chen has also worked with the volvelle or wheel chart, which is a set of stacked paper disks of varying sizes, sometimes with windows.[11]

Chen’s books are in the collections the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington, D.C.),[12] and the Victoria and Albert Museum (London).


  1. ^ a b Flying Fish Press website, "About" page.
  2. ^ Vieth, Lynne S. "The Artist's Book Challenges Academic Convention." Art Documentation (2006): 14-19.
  3. ^ National Museum of Women in the Arts website
  4. ^ Spark (2004-03-03). "Julie Chen". Spark. Retrieved 2019-03-23.
  5. ^ "Episode V: Process" Archived 2014-01-23 at the Wayback Machine.Craft in America website.
  6. ^ "Julie Chen". Craft in America website Archived 2014-06-09 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Amos, Tom, and Samanta Cairo. "Special Selections: The J. Whirler and Jean Tyler Pop-Up Books Collections". Friends of the University Libraries, Western Michigan University, 2002, p. 2.
  8. ^ Strizever, Michelle. "The Unique Apparition of a Distance: Aura in Julie Chen and Elizabeth McDevitt's Octopus." Openings: Studies in Book Art 1:1, 2012.
  9. ^ Wasserman, Krystyna. "Book as Art XIV: Temptations". Reprinted from an exhibition catalog of the same title published by the National Museum of Women in the Arts, 2002.
  10. ^ "Bon Bon Mots". University of Nevada, Reno, Special Collections website.
  11. ^ Hiebert, Helen. Playing with Pop-Ups: The Art of Dimensional, Moving Paper Designs. Quarry Books, 2014, pp. 85-87.
  12. ^

External linksEdit

Further readingEdit